Monday, March 31, 2014

Wishing the Valley’s May Crops Will Benefit from April Showers

Will there be April showers for May crops?

After the rain over the weekend, the weather forecasters are predicting the start of April tomorrow could be another wet one – albeit far from a gully washer.

Still, farmers around here will take any rain they can get during this drought. It helps the season’s first alfalfa crop. It helps keep dust down around almond orchards – remember dusty roads can lead to future mite woes.

In the greater scheme of things though, Mother Nature isn’t likely going to bring an end to another dry year. March is traditionally the last big month for rain to come down, according to state water officials. The snowpack is a mere 15 percent of normal in the Northern California mountains and 32 percent in Central California ranges.

Some growers are still uncertain about planting cotton.
Indeed, field scout Carlos Silva reminds us that the first week of April last year saw the first cotton seeds planted in the Valley. Usually, pre-irrigation is occurring as growers prepare the fields for the coming year’s crop. Right now, you can hear crickets rather than tractors.
A number of growers are on the fence right now – still deciding whether to go ahead and plant cotton this year, Carlos notes. During a recent water meeting sponsored by the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association, experts predicted cotton acreage could be the lowest since the 1920s. Their forecast put pima cotton at 130,000 acres and upland/acala at 58,000 acres.

There was a lot of pessimism in the air during the meeting, Carlos says. One farmer, for example, indicated he won’t be farming 9,000 acres this season. In the Valley, cotton farming crosses generations of families. Over the years, some continued to plant some cotton just to keep with tradition. The drought could break many traditions this year.

Meanwhile in alfalfa, Carlos says weevils continue to be a concern in some fields. He’s keeping an eye on them. Right now, the pests aren’t at the UC IPM threshold for treatment. Carlos is finding some aphids, but the populations are still in check. A good sign is parasitic wasps – natural predators – are in the fields to keep the aphid populations under control.

NOW eggs are found in trap in almond orchard.
In almonds, field scout Jenna Horine reports some worrisome navel orangeworm (NOW) activity in a few orchards on the Valley’s Westside. She is finding NOW eggs in the traps. Poor orchard sanitation – those orchards with mummy nuts left in the tree – is the culprit in many cases. Watch for NOW problems later this season. In one instance, though, Jenna found NOW eggs in traps in an orchard in which the grower followed good mummy nut removal practices over the winter. His neighbor, though, didn’t clear the mummies in his orchard. Too bad there isn’t a NOW border patrol.

Field Day Alert: Monitoring Practices, Irrigation Tips, Pest and Disease Management headlines an Almond Field Day on Thursday, April 17 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Rushing Ranch, 11599 W. Shaw Avenue in Fresno. Speakers are David Doll of UCCE Merced, Gene Brandi of the American Beekeeping Federation, Geurreet Brar of UCCE Fresno and Matthew Danielczyk, restoration project manager for Audubon California. As always, the event is free and 2 hours of continuing education and 2.5 hours of CCA CEU credits will be available. More details are at the Sustainable Cotton Project website. The event promises to be full of helpful information, especially during a drought year.

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